Warning of Sport NI team 'no-show' as funding cuts take hold
Time is running out for Sport NI to find funding for a Northern Ireland team to compete in this year's Commonwealth Youth Games - and a 'no-show' would jeopardise our chances of hosting the event in 2021, it has been claimed.
The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) is determined to bring the Youth Games to Belfast in six years' time, confident that the city has the infrastructure and venues to stage what is regarded as a high-class sporting event.
But the NICGC fears that a lack of finance to send a strong team to this year's games in Samoa in September might dash hopes of a successful bid.
Team NI have been offered 17 places at the 2015 Youth Games and NICGC believes that supporting the multi-sport competition will increase the chances of bringing the Games here in 2021.
Conal Heatley from NICGC said: "We feel it is vital that we show our support for other countries hosting these games. If we don't make an appearance in Samoa the Games Federation will say, 'why should this country be hosting in 2021 if they won't send a team over to other countries?'
"The money for a team will come from Sport NI. We have not yet received a letter of offer. What we need is clarity and we need it soon because there are so many things to be organised."
A bid has to be submitted to the Games Federation by the end of July. It is estimated that the cost would be £3m, which would have to be approved by the NI Executive.
NICGC believes that, with 1,000 athletes coming here plus their families and global television coverage, much of the outlay could be recovered and that the four days of competition would be a stepping stone in terms of athlete development for gifted young sports stars aged between 14 and 18.
World boxing champion Carl Frampton and Commonwealth Games champion Michael Conlan are among those who have represented Team NI at the Youth Games in the past.